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The Falcons are perfect and once again Friday night, Cameron Fronimos stole the show.
The defense pitched a shutout while the senior running back/linebacker scored three touchdowns and threw for another as Thunder Mountain pounded visiting St. Bernard's (Calif.) 42-0 to cap off an 8-0 regular season in just the second year of Falcons football.
Fronimos started slow running the ball but he returned a first-quarter interception 50 yards behind a wall of blockers for a touchdown before completing a 42-yard halfback pass to classmate Ty McMichael in the second quarter. He and then added a 56-yard touchdown run out of the wildcat formation before breaking loose for a 70-yard scoring jaunt for the Falcons' final touchdown.
"It's senior night," Fronimos shrugged afterward. "It's the last home game and I wanted to remember my last game in Juneau. It meant a lot."
It clearly meant a great deal to the rest of the team as well, as the giddy celebration commenced after the game clock showed zeros.
Greg Gilchrest cartwheeled through the back of the end zone, Donald Stokes did the Dougie and coach Bill Byouer stood alone at midfield, taking it all in as his guys celebrated the completion of a perfect run through the regular season.
"We did it," Byouer said he was thinking as he watched the jubilation in the end zone. "It's been a lot of work. Last year we started, and where we finished off this year right now, it's a complete turnaround. These kids, we're two years in and these kids have come together. I'm losing a lot of them -3 seniors are going to be gone.
"But I'm ecstatic," he added after a long pause to reflect. "I've never had a team go 8-0 and it feels pretty good. It's something that we all strive for as coaches. All coaches want to get that perfect season. But now that's over with and we've got to take the next step, and focus on whoever we've got next Friday."
Byouer began the opening moments of his post-game speech by simply holding up eight fingers for eight victories as the team cheered. He then held up three fingers to signify three more wins, which would earn the Falcons a state championship.
"I don't think you guys understand how proud of you I am," Byouer told the team.
And there was a lot of be proud of with a perfect, shutout performance on senior night.
The Falcons opened with scores on their first two possessions. Senior running back Ben Hotch capped an 8-play opening drive with a 47-yard touchdown scamper, blasting through a hole up the middle and sprinting untouched to the end zone. Jordan Hakala tacked on a two-point conversion run and it was 8-0, Falcons, three minutes into the game.
The Crusaders marched down to the Thunder Mountain 20-yard line on their ensuing possession, but a fourth-and-7 pass fell incomplete.
Eight plays later, senior running back Jesse Conrad went up the middle before bouncing outside for a 36-yard touchdown run. Another Hakala two-point conversion made it 16-0 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.
Fronimos' interception return came on the next Crusaders possession and Thunder Mountain led 22-0 with 15.6 seconds left in the first quarter. Fronimos then flattened the return man on the ensuing kickoff for good meaure.
The teams traded possessions up to the last minute of the second quarter when Conrad pounced on a Crusaders fumble at the St. Bernard's 36-yard line.
On third-and-20 from the Crusader 41-yard line, Fronimos ran right, pulled up and hit a wide-open McMichael for a 30-0 lead after a Hakala conversion run with just seven seconds left in the half.
McMichael then intercepted a Crusaders pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown before being brought down at the final horn.
Fronimos then tacked on his two long runs on the Falcons' first two possessions of the second half to finish with 183 yards on just 17 carries. Conrad added 86 yards and a score on just eight carries, and Hotch had 67 yards and a touchdown on three attempts.
The Falcons racked up 386 yards on the ground.
"Cameron is over 1,000 yards for the season, and Jesse Conrad was running the ball hard tonight," Byouer said. "Ben Hotch, he's another one. I'm so deep with runnning backs. They just keep pushing through."
Fronimos credited the work up front by the offensive line.
"Our line - we have a beast line. I don't see anybody stopping our line," he said. "They make the biggest holes in the world and that makes it so much easier.
"And our defense improves every week; shut down," he added. "We just keep getting better and better, and everyone is coming together as a team that actually cooperates together instead of just playing individual defense. It takes everybody to play together on defense."
Fronimos had several teeth-rattling tackles on defense and special teams, but senoir Cole Bosio anchored the defensive line up front.
"Bosio held in that hole center part (of the line) and took care of the fullback coming through there," Byouer said. "He made so many tackles just sitting in there one-on-one. He controlled the center."
Bosio said the team was focused from the opening whistle.
"We knew this was going to be a good team because they're from California and they would have a lot more depth to them," he said. "We knew we couldn't mess around at all and make any mistakes - we had to minimize those as much as possible and get our blocks down."
But it wasn't all good for Thunder Mountain. Receiver and defensive back Ben Jahn was ejected for retaliation during a dust up with a St. Bernard's player, and he will have to sit out next weekend's first-round playoff game.
"It's alway the second guy that gets penalized," Byouer explained.
After the game, Byouer stiff-armed those who would question the Falcons' strength of schedule.
"We're 8-0 and that's perfection. There are those naysayers that are saying, 'Well, you're 3A.' You know, you've got to win your games and we're not even listening to those guys," he said. "We play our league, we play our division and we do what we have to do to get the job done.
"And we get the job done."
How They Scored
TMHS - Hotch 47 run (Hakala run), 9:00
TMHS -onrad 36 run (Hakala run), 2:32
TMHS - Fronimos 50 interception return (conversion failed), :15.6
TMHS - McMichael 41 pass from Fronimos (Hakala run), :07
TMHS -ronimos 56 run (conversion failed), 8:11
TMHS -ronimos 70 run (conversion failed), 3:05